Edinburgh Tourism Information
The most talked about city in Scotland and a must see destination is Edinburgh, Scotland's, hilly capital. It's renowned by it's medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city you will find Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
To visit Edinburgh, not only it will blow you away by it's scenery but also the spectacular rocks, rustic buildings and a huge collection of medieval and classic architecture, including numerous stone decorations. It is often considered one of the most lively cities in Europe.
The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. A visit here will be well worth it, considering the numerous things you can do and see. Among the "must see" are; Arthur’s Seat, an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views of the city, and Calton Hill, which is topped with monuments and memorials. Also the city is a paradise for Whiskey lovers, with many breweries and shops offering free samples of the best quality made in Scotland.
Whilst in Scotland, the climate is quite moderate and very changeable, although on occasions it can be really hot or really cold. The unpredictable nature of the climate means it's not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day! It's advised to bring warm clothes, water-proofed gear and protective gear if you are venturing into forests and mountains.
The best time to visit is from the mid Spring to mid Autumn, you can expect average maximum temperatures to range from 7°C to 15 °C. Spring is beautiful time because of the daffodils, bluebells, cherry blossom and rhododendrons bursting into bloom. Also for Autumn, the colours are eye-catching and vibrant, as the trees change from green to fiery reds, oranges and yellows.
Summer's are normally the warmest months with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 20°C. At this time of year there is actually no complete darkness in the far north of Scotland. However, Winter's can get very cold, below 0°C usually and the peaks and mountains of the Highlands experience around 100 days of falling snow.
But in the cities it's only 15-20 days of snow if you are lucky to catch the snow falls! January is the best time for skiing, with five ski centres providing some of the best value snowboarding and skiing in Europe.
Edinburgh has a very easy transportation network and it's very practical to move around the city in its busses and trams. Firstly when arriving to the city by plane, the airport is well connected by a tram system to the city centre. (See image below). It costs £8.50 for a return trip. By bus its cheaper, £7.50 for a return trip or if arriving by night there are also night busses which serve the airport 24/7 by bus 100 to the city centre. Also day time buses 200,300 or 400 for other areas in Edinburgh. Visit Lothianbusses.com for more info on the busses.
If you arrive by train or bus, the stations are located within walking distance to the the city centre and the most popular tourists attractions. Once in the city, a single bus ticket will cost £1.80 and a day card is £4.50. There over 50 bus routes in Edinburgh. Some which can take you to really interesting places where to admire the scenery and views. Check the maps below for more info.
Edinburgh is a city that calls you to explore it by foot, the narrow streets, passageways, stairs and hidden church yards will attract you away from the main streets. Most of the structures in the Old Town have remained in their original form over the years. Charming medieval relics are plenty in this section of the city. In contrast, orderly Georgian terraces line the streets of the New Town. The general urban scenery is a blend of ancient structures and modern architecture, which gives the city a unique character.
In 1995, the Old Town was listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
But it's not all about the history and culture, there is plenty more to do with year round festivals, a throbbing nightlife and an entertaining arts scene, Edinburgh never falls short of activities for fun and interesting travel ventures for tourists.
Below you will find the highlights of the city:
- Arthur Seat at Holyrood Park: the park’s peak located at 823 feet is Arthur's Seat which is the star of the attraction. You can access Arthur’s Seat hill from various points in the park, but the slope veering up from Dunsapie Loch is the easiest way, and well worth the effort given the stunning views of the city and beyond from the top.
Although it’s officially considered a Royal park, given its proximity to, and history with the Palace, the vibe is very relaxed,. Joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and of course tourists, come in abundance, specially during the weekend.
Beyond Arthur’s Seat, there’s loads to explore, there is 600 acre of natural park to walk around, from lochs and cliffs to the fairly accessible ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel.
If you border the park, on the right, you will reach the pretty village of Duddingston, which homes The Sheep Heid Inn, believed by many to be the oldest pub in Scotland.
✔️Tip: Going to the park in the morning is best for the views and the sun location, it's also advised to take comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and sun protection (if it's sunny) as the walks are all uphill for a good 45 minutes!
- Edinburgh Castle, dominates the city skyline from the peak of what used to be a volcano. Used as a defence fortification in the medieval times, it has also served as a home to royalty for hundreds of years including Queen Margaret, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. When visiting you can see the Crown Jewels, Stone of Destiny and an opportunity to explore the castle’s ancient dungeons. It gets very popular around 1pm for the shooting of the One o'clock Gun, a tradition dating back to 1861 and takes place every day except Sundays. Tickets cost £17 per adult online or £18.50 in person. Despite the price, it's worth the visit as there is a lot to see and learn. Get your tickets online to skip the queues and pay less than directly over the counter.
✔️Tip: As you walk to the Castle, you will pass the high street, there are lots of souvenir shops where to sample different types of Whiskeys and visit some breweries.
Edinburgh Castle Photo Gallery ▼
- Calton Hill, not only is a place of magnificent tranquillity and views, but it's also full of culture and history. Rising abruptly at the east end of Princes Street, the hill is a magnet to photographers and great place to watch festival fireworks! Located at the top of the hill is the National Monument, intended as a tribute to the Scottish soldiers who fell in the Napoleonic Wars. This unfinished mini-Parthenon was nicknamed ‘the Scottish Disgrace’ (the project ran out of money).
The views from the top of the Nelson Monument are a must see. In 1852, a large time ball was introduced, which is lowered as the one o'clock gun is fired from Edinburgh castle each day. (entry to the Hill is free, but it costs £4 to access Nelson Monument). You can also see the City Observatory and City Dome and Dugald Stewart Monument (built in 1831, this hilltop was modelled after Athens' Tower of the Winds).
- George Street, it's home to some of Edinburgh’s trendiest, shops, bars and restaurants. George Street is the perfect spot to relax after visiting the sites, meet with friends for drinks, dinner or a light bite. There are also lots of souvenir shops where to sample different types of Whiskeys and visit some breweries.
- St Giles Cathedral and the High Street, open all year round, located on the High Street contains memorials to around 200 distinguished Scots, as well as some incredible stained glass windows. Parts of the structure date back to the 12th century and you’ll also find the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, located here too. Entry is free.
The High Street hosts some of the best souvenir and interesting Scottish shops to browse around. It also a good place for dining and cafes.
- National Museum of Scotland, recently refurbished, the visit is also interesting by it's modern design and layout. The museum focuses through the history of the world and everything in it, both natural and man-made. More than 800 objects make up the mind-boggling installation. There are interactive galleries to keep children happy, free tours and a Balcony Café, with a rooftop Tower Restaurant. Also take the lift from the 5th floor to the 7th to visit the roof garden for a moment of peace and a city panorama (open 10am-4pm). Free to enter to the museum.
- Dean Village: Located only a 10 minute walk away from Princes Street, visitors can find the Dean Village, a beautiful oasis right by the Water of Leith. Dean Village was previously where milling of water mills took place. Hidden in the village, you will come across a variety of mill stones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies. The Dean Bridge can also be found if you walk along the walkway following the Water of Leith. The Bridge and St Bernard's Well were both designed by Thomas Telford. At the heart of the village is Well Court, the most iconic building in the village. This building was built in the 1880s and housed local workers who worked at the water mills.
- Royal Botanic Gardens, at only 15 minutes walk from the city centre, you will find this peaceful heaven, with 70 acres of trees, shrubs, rare plants and specialist gardens, it’s easy to happily lose yourself. There are guided garden walks from the John Hope Gateway and exhibitions in 18th-century Inverleith House. The are also places where to grab a bite and relax within the natural surroundings. The gardens are free to enter and visit.
- Scottish National Gallery, housing the national collection of fine art. You can find a good selection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and a proudly comprehensive collection of Scottish art, including Scotland’s favourite painting, The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch. A useful free Gallery Bus runs between the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art if you are keen to continue and see more art, or it's perhaps a wet rainy day. All museums are free to enter. Note there are two buildings for the Modern Art Galleries. (Modern One and Modern Two).
- The Water of Leith is a designated urban wildlife site running through the city, with woods and wildflowers, herons, kingfishers and even roe deer. There are plenty of access points, but the ideal starting point is at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre in Slateford. From there, head towards Leith, passing through charming Dean Village with its converted mills and a dramatic Thomas Telford bridge, then past the St Bernard’s Well to Stockbridge or Canonmills where you can catch busses back to Princes Street.(city centre). Get there by taking bus 34 or 44 towards Slateford.
This quaint and popular cafe is very popular because it's the birthplace of the famous novels from Harry Potter, inspired and written here by the author, JK Rolling.
The ambience is very much of the 90's era coffee house: comfy sofas, coloured walls, dark wood panelling, big plants, lazy jazz music and large milky coffees with tasty cakes and cookies to snack.
The cafe is very popular with Chinese and Japanese tourists and it often gets very crowded, so expect lengthy times to get a table. Also note the walls in the toilets are absolutely full of graffiti from the hundreds of visitors every day leaving comments and signatures. Although the walls have been painted several times, it has become useless, now a days the graffiti feature is as interesting to see as the cafe itself. The cafe, opened in 1995, is located at 21 George IV Bridge. You will find it open till 21h most days.
This pretty seaside resort, only a short bus ride away, still retains considerable old-fashioned seaside charms. It has a mile of sand, a promenade, sailing club, good for kite flying and kite-surfing. In the summer it's also great for paddling in the clean waters and swimming (no lifeguards). Also it's a good area where to find ice-cream parlours, sweetie shops, amusement arcades, family-friendly cafés and pubs. You can also relax in the Turkish Baths (£7.20) at the Portobello Swim Centre further down the beach.
To get there, take bus 26 from the city centre (Elizabeth Street). Time is 20 minutes.
Edinburgh's nightlife is well known, for its music festivals and concerts. But outside of these energetic periods a more relaxing, trendy bar, pub and nightclub scene can be enjoyed by visitors of all types. There is no central nightlife district in Edinburgh and instead a few different neighbourhoods offer slightly different atmospheres after dark.
Despite the Old Town's name, the district has new and trendy areas such as Cowgate and Grassmarket. Both of these are popular bar-hopping destinations. Great live bands and folk music is best heard in both these areas and the surrounding small alleys and walkways. The Royal Mile is also home to a few atmospheric traditional pubs. Along the city centre, Rose Street is also great for a few drinks before you head to the clubs.
The seafront area of Leith has a contemporary feel, but like many areas in Edinburgh, the trendy bars and clubs compete with charming old pubs. These pubs dot the Edinburgh streets of most neighbourhoods as they have done for centuries. They are a great place to begin an evening or end a day.
Edinburgh enjoys a relaxed nightlife atmosphere, which is complemented by lax rules and drinking hours. Most bars stay open until one to three in the morning, but much later when the music festivals arrive. The city parties hard during the Edinburgh Festival and the New Year's celebrations of Hogmanay.
For those not tired of walking around the many sights and want to spend a good shopping day, Edinburgh won't disappoint you. There is something for everyone; from high-end boutiques and luxury brands to vintage treasure shops and unique speciality stores.
Princes Street, is the main street of the New Town of Edinburgh, is by far the most well-known and popular strip to do a spot of shopping. The slightly calmer and more exclusive George Street runs parallel to Princes Street but is somewhat pricier. At the east end of the street, Princes Mall contains plenty of specialist shops and boutiques.
The Royal Mile, which forms the spine of the atmospheric Old Town, is a slightly more off-beat shopping destination, in which you can find more quirky independent stores. Popular buys in Edinburgh include tartan scarves and kilts, whisky, Edinburgh Crystal and tweeds.
The Stockbridge Sunday Market is also worth a visit to browse the stalls selling fresh local produce and handcrafted items including jewellery, ceramics and soap.
For shopping centres, you can visit the Ocean Terminal, with hundreds of shops, food hall and Cinemas.
Edinburgh and its surroundings are a popular place to start any trip to Scotland and visit the highlands. With the increasing demand for tourism in the region it is harder to find cheaper accommodation and therefore it's not a surprise that many tourists only stay in the city for a couple of nights. Stylish Hotels and apartments are well beyond the £100 per night. However there are plenty of non-chain hotels and Bed & Breakfasts which cater for the weekend tourism in particular.
If you are on a budget, it's recommended that you stay within the city centre at Hostels which offer shared or private accommodation. Prices can range from £20 to £50 per night in Guest houses or hostels. Another alternative for private accommodation is booking via Airbnb.
The city of Edinburgh is ideal for a weekend stay or a stopover whilst visiting Scotland. It's more the appeal to visit the city in combination of the natural parks, forests and highlands which attract visitors to Scotland. However saying that, the city in itself has a lot to offer, you can walk and explore the culture options during the day and go out, relax or party during the evening, thanks for it being such a lively city.
A weekend stay would be recommended or if you choose to visit Scotland and the Highlands then either start or finish your trip in Edinburgh thanks to its good transportation links.
Edinburgh Photo Slide 📷